The Camel’s House in the Cannaregio districtHistorical Curiosities
The Camel’s House in the Cannaregio district
If you take a walk in the Cannaregio district you might come across a camel, clearly not a camel in the flesh, but one depicted in a particular bas-relief placed on the facade of Palazzo Mastelli, commonly known precisely as the camel’s house. The peculiar representation - a man who leads a camel - seems to have originated from a romantic and equally doomed love story...
Legend has it that a wealthy Middle Eastern merchant, who was forced to leave his homeland to move to Venice, decided to have a camel carved on the facade of his new house in order to make it recognizable to the woman he loved, who had not agreed to marry him and follow him as his bride. In case she decided to join him, she would have easily found him. It is not known if the bride-to-be ever showed up at the rich merchant's house but one thing is certain: the palace was actually built by the Mastelli family around 1100. The three brothers, Rioba, Sandi and Afani, were silk and spices merchants who came to Venice from Morea to set up a business and it seems that their effigy was precisely a camel.
There is also another and more recent legend linked to the Mastelli palace: back in 1757 it was believed that the building was haunted by mischievous ghosts who, every day at the same time, rang all the bells of the house. As time passed, other and more frequent strange phenomena would happen: footstep sounds, windows opening and closing by themselves, shadows and broken mirrors... such was the fright that women fainted, strange evicting rituals were carried out and the inhabitants of the neighborhood ran away from the house...
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